Photo Credit: Kelly Borget
1690 Matthews Ave, Vancouver BC
Glen Brae is a Scottish Baronial style residence designed by architects John Parr & Thomas Fee. It was built in 1910 for the lumber and real estate baron William Lamont Tait, and received a heritage designation on December 17, 1974.
One of the distinctive large estates characteristic of the Shaughnessy area, Glen Brae is a four-storey 16,000 sq. ft. mansion with 18 rooms and six bathrooms. It sits on a high point at Matthews Avenue and Marguerite Streets in First Shaughnessy, on a 48,000 sq. ft. land lot. It features two domed turrets that have arched window openings on third floor. Its ornate woodwork includes dentils on soffit, heads & sills, eave brackets and expansive Corinthian-columned entry porch. It had one of British Columbia’s first elevators, as Tait’s wife used a wheelchair. A $10,000 wrought-iron gate and fence was made by Walter MacFarlane of Glasgow. It has a central pathway, a curved driveway for carriage and mature trees and shrubs in its gardens contributing to its grandiose appearance.
The initial owner of Glen Brae, William Lamont Tait was born in Scotland around 1847 and moved to Pennsylvania with his family as a child. Tait lived in Ontario and Manitoba before moving to Vancouver and retained business connections in Ontario throughout his life. He ran a sawmill on False Creek that was later acquired by the Rat Portage Lumber Compnay in 1903. Tait was also a property investor and, before the construction of Glen Brae, had commissioned the architects of the manor, Parr and Fee to also design two downtown investment properties, the Manhattan at 784 Thurlow St and the nearby Orillia, which no longer exists. Before taking residence in his custom-built manor, Tait lived at 752 Thurlow. He passed away in 1919.
After Tait’s death, the residence was briefly acquired in 1925 as the headquarters of a Vancouver chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, a violent white supremacist organization most well known in its original American context. As part of the organization’s expansion into Canada in the 1920s, the KKK staged a public march from downtown to the newly acquired Shaughnessy mansion. They rented the manor for around a year, before a combination of factors including internal conflicts led to their exit.
In 1929 a kindergarten briefly rented the manor, and in 1980 it became a private hospital owned by Julian and Elisabeth Wlosinski. Elizabeth Wlosinski left the property to the City of Vancouver in her will. The property is currently used as the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. The City of Vancouver, has rented Glen Brae to Canuck Place for a $1 annual fee and fifty-year term since 1993. Between 1993-1995 the building underwent a $5 million renovation by architects Downs & Archambault. Canuck Place officially opened on October 26, 1995, becoming the first free-standing children’s hospice in North America.
Glen Brae, Vancouver History, https://www.vancouverhistory.ca/archives_GlenBrae.htm
The History of the Ku Klux Klan in Vancouver, Forbidden Vancouver Blog, https://forbiddenvancouver.ca/blog/kkk-history-vancouver/
KKK Moves into Shaughnessy Mansion, The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/vancouver-feature-kkk-moves-into-shaughnessy-mansion
W.L. Tait archive, Changing Vancouver Blog, https://changingvancouver.wordpress.com/tag/w-l-tait/
About Us, Canuck Place, https://www.canuckplace.org/
Exploring Vancouver: The Architectural Guide by Kalman and Ward, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver by Chuck Davis, Canadian Register of Historic Places, Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association